On their approach to the airport, very large aircraft loom low over Two Bros. BBQ Market. Closer at hand, very small children make an even greater sonic impact.
“I told my kids this was the only one of my places they could scream,” says Jason Dady (The Lodge, Bin 555, Tre Trattoria), who owns the place with his brother Jake. They, and all the others, took him seriously.
But the noise and activity seem natural and acceptable at a picnic table under the oaks that shade Two Bros.’ patio. (You can always retreat to the interior if the occasional ruckus exceeds personal tolerance levels.) In fact, everything is so casual and pleasant here, tucked away behind El Bosque, that it was hard to remember to think critically about the food on any of my three ventures into chef-driven barbecue.
Oh, but that’s just the point: “I didn’t want to chef it up too much,” Dady was heard to say. And in that he has certainly succeeded. Taken on their own, some “fixins”, especially, seem almost too simple. The minimal cole slaw, for example. And the relentlessly honest potato salad. Even the lightly smoked shrimp from the “pickins” column. One evening, my scouting party, in a mutinous mood, decided to add pickled jalapeños to the BBQ beans, already augmented with bacon and canned peaches. (I liked them fine without the chiles — but even better with.)
But context is everything. The slaw was great with minimally manipulated pulled pork butt, all atop the pasty white bread it does no good to fight. The unadulterated beans are congenial companions to a full-flavored meat such as the pulled and saucy-succulent goat — often sold out, by the way. Kids might go for the cheesy mac and cheese — far better here than most places despite a kind of pastiness. The sliced pickles, scented with toasted spices (notably coriander seed) do seem somewhat “cheffy,” but I liked them so much it didn’t matte r…
Besides, barbecue joints in Texas are usually judged on their brisket and ribs. Serious, oak-fired pits, sheltered by a screened structure in the patio, crank out the major meats, and Dady and his crew, many daylighting from his other establishments, have got the flavor down pat: just enough smoke, just enough dry rub. Yes, if you go late in the day the brisket may seem a tad dry, but there are always the three house sauces (one sweeter, one more vinegary, the house style peppery and complex) to alleviate the situation. (There’s no dryness issue with the chopped beef, which already comes anointed — and a little greasy — but that’s where the white bread steps in again to save the day.)
Ribs are right-on, too. You can order meaty pork ribs and cherry-glazed baby backs, as with most of the meats, by the give-or-take quarter-pound. Purists should not take offense at the cherry glaze; it’s decidedly low-key and only suggests employing the tarter of the sauces. Breaking ranks, I might prefer a sausage that does suggest more chefly intervention; Two Bros.’ is good and moist, but not particularly distinctive. The chicken thighs, however, are genius. And at $1.80 per piece, the kind of deal we all need right now. Simply flattened, peppered, and smoked, they are great with no sauce at all, only more rewarding with the drizzle of your choice. For further bargains, check out the daily specials, too. A paper “boat” of chopped brisket with chili, yellow cheese (I seem to remember yellow cheese), and sour cream was the kind of dish I love to diss — then can’t get enough of. We added chopped white onion and were in heaven.
’Q hangouts seldom score big on desserts; a cobbler with canned peaches is about par for the course. One sidekick sniffed at the “classic banana pudding” complete with broken ‘nilla wafers, preferring mama’s meringue-topped version. I found it just right (again in context), but was rendered nearly speechless by the blueberry cobbler. OK, it doesn’t beat my own mother’s, but then she had the advantage of wild blueberries picked in alpine meadows. But in context (for the last time), it was spectacular.